“The art practice which the artist Derek Hill has set up with scientists of the University of Newcastle is remarkable for how it represents an unfaltering stream of exceptional work that Derek has produced since his time at the Royal College in the 1970s and the persistence that he has shown in linking his art production to collaborative projects with professional artists and non-professionals. When he left the Royal College and was travelling in Africa, Derek’s life was put in jeopardy by a bacterial infection. The experience has been a mainspring of his work over several decades, and it found a ready response from the university scientists. The resulting link of computer imaging with the organic nature of Derek’s art practice presents a remarkable opportunity for the creation new and exciting artwork, and the engagement of university personnel, schools, and communities.”
John Millard, retired museum manager in Newcastle and Liverpool.
The paintings and films currently on display at Newcastle University’s Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology (CBCB) demonstrate months of interaction between Hill’s studio and the CBCB microbiology labs. Flat-screen movies and large-scale industrial-relief paintings deliberately juxtapose the individual qualities between the two diverse worlds. The movies appear to project giant landmasses, travelling randomly in rhythmic sequence but are interacting colonies vying for territory. The paintings are the flesh and bone of the work and have evolved over some time. “Bacteria is a source that I feel connected to and is one of the reasons why I have become curious to explore it as live interactive material. It has a multitude of qualities that are important to my method of painting, which leads me to incorporate a variety of industrial products and applications that provide a cultural, public and industrial dimension; that shift the focus away from the purely scientific and onto the streets for people to engage in.”
Some of the photographs below are colony studies from the selection process.